Every movie worth watching includes at least one epic sword battle. From “Star Wars” light sabers, to the bloody blades of Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill,” sword fights have become a part of pop culture.
Now, students at UM can experience the real deal by joining the Fencing Club.
Fencing is the sport of dueling with swords. It is one of four sports to be included in every modern Olympic Games since the first in 1896.
There are three styles of fencing (epee, saber and foil), each with their own rules and techniques.
A huge priority is put on safety. Masks are designed to resist 1600 Newtons; to put that in perspective, a bullet delivers 400.
Girls wear breastplates, guys wear cups, and everyone wears a mask, jacket, glove, and a host of other things to make the possibility of injury very small.
At 37 members, UM’s Fencing Club is at its largest size in recent memory.
The UM Fencing Club has been around since the 1950s but, according to club President Kenneth David Fernandez Prada, hasn’t done very much until recently. Since Prada took over the club’s leadership, he has been working hard to get its name out there.
“There’s not a lot of fencing spirit in Florida,” he said, citing the northeast as more of a fencing hotbed.
Nonetheless, the Fencing Club has an ambitious tournament schedule. It includes the Temple Open, where UM competes against Harvard and other Ivy League schools.
The Fencing Club is certainly in able hands. Prada won his first international tournament at the age of 7, and was on the Colombian national team. In addition, he coached 45 other students in his high school fencing program.
He makes it clear, however, that most members have little to no experience when they join. At meetings some members are just learning to lunge, while others have scored matches along the wall. Students of all skill levels are welcome to join.
Club officer Laura Gonzalez can attest to this firsthand.
“I was never good at sports,” she said with a laugh. “But I played video games, so I was interested in sword fighting. When I saw the Fencing Club at CaneFest, something just clicked.”
As someone who started out with no experience, Gonzalez is now one who teaches the beginners at club meetings.
Despite fencing’s serious nature, the atmosphere at a club meeting is anything but serious. Members are warm and friendly; helping each other through drills and offering words of encouragement.
“We’re a big family,” Gonzalez said.